VIRGINIA TECH (4-3, 2-1 ACC)
The Comeback Kings are at it again.
Virginia Tech struck out twice against the Big East. It promptly dropped out of the Associated Press Top 25 after an embarrassing Week 3 loss at Pitt. It lost back-to-back games against Cincinnati and North Carolina. And it fell behind 20-0 in the first quarter against Duke.
Yet none of it has mattered much to the Coastal Division standings at the midway point of the season.
The preseason favorites to win the division still have a chance to do that, despite a well-documented horrendous start to the season. The Hokies had to replace eight starters on offense this fall, including four on the offensive line, so the offensive struggles weren’t entirely unexpected. Quarterback Logan Thomas hasn’t gotten much help from his receivers, and there’s been a lack of consistent toughness from the offensive linemen. That group took yet another hit this past weekend when starting center Andrew Miller suffered a season-ending ankle injury.
The tailback-by-committee approach has struggled to replace standout David Wilson, who left early for the NFL. The defensive woes, though, have been the biggest surprise. The Hokies’ front seven was expected to be one of the best in the ACC, but has been average at best. Inexperience in the secondary and injuries haven’t helped, but Virginia Tech was good enough to shut out Duke for three quarters in a 41-20 win against the Blue Devils this past weekend.
It was the biggest comeback during coach Frank Beamer’s tenure, and it could be the turning point for an even bigger comeback in the second half of the season -- if the offense can hold it together up front.
Offensive MVP: LT Nick Becton. He’s been one of the most consistent players up front for the Hokies. He was in on 72 plays against Georgia Tech in his first start and graded out at 90 percent. He also graded out at 91 percent in the loss to Pittsburgh and played every offensive snap. He had five knockdowns against Cincinnati and was in on all 80 plays at UNC, where he graded out at 92 percent.
Defensive MVP: Jack Tyler. He has been a bright spot on an otherwise dreary defense and is fourth in the ACC in tackles with 68 total and 9.7 per game. He has started all seven games and leads the Hokies in tackles. He also has two pass breakups, seven quarterback hurries, five tackles for loss and a sack.